Outdoors, Green Living, Homesteading, Sustainable living, Green Building

Food and Nutrition

Zai sqaure foot garden 5 End of Summer


This is August 16th and 17th. All I had time for here is to take some photos. I did get one meal out of it and a bit more this time in. I will show you first the food that was picked and prepped and cooked. I had tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, banana pepper, green beans and Lima type beans.

Next I show you some photos of some brush clearing work around the pond side of the garden. This was on the south west and south eastern sides/corners of the garden. We are trying to open it up more to morning and afternoon sun. I managed to save about 3 cherry trees I hope that where overtaken by other trees that outgrew them.

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Next we have the mid august garden. Everything was planted a bit late. I show how the okra transplant went, and they did fine. I wanted to transplant some more but didn’t get time. In these pictures you will see some sun flowers that are doing well, that is until I dropped small tree’s down on two of them. Also you will see an ear of corn, a small cantaloupe, a few small water melons, some small squash. There are other flowers that were planted. The last two weeks have been really wet and mild for August. They have been getting rain showers almost every day. So we have not had to do much irrigation. A tomato worm stripped almost all the tomatoes. We dusted them with 7 dust and now have to wait for more new tomatoes. Last time I was in I had seen that one plant had been stripped, I should have dusted them then. Also one water melon had been munched on by what looks like most likely a terrapin turtle.

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Zai Square Foot Gardening 4


This is middle of July report and will be the end of July report.

I shot these in a hurry and some came out blurry. I’m also a poet and didn’t know it, just now lol.

I inspected the corn box, some of the corn I planted last time was beginning to poke upwards but was being shaded by the beans. The beans are thriving. Some of the sun flowers are coming up next to the corn box. Some other flowers I planted are coming up.

The carrots didn’t come up again. No luck with carrots this year or onions from seed.

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Okra is doing well, 2 of the 4 pepper plants are doing well. Next time in I will transplant some okra. Radishes did well so far. All vine plants doing well. Tomatoes doing well so far. All herbs died. Lavender died. One sunflower has a flower head and I forgot to get a pic. All the Marigolds are doing well and flowering but are not growing larger yet. Sugar beats didn’t come up. Either its too warm for germination or the seeds that were left over from last year are bad.

I’m still hoping to plant pumpkins. I will be planting cold weather stuff probably middle to end of august.

We are watering every day in the evenings by pumping from pond.

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I have a new idea about how to setup the 50 gal rain barrels. Gerry Cerda gave me an idea. He said I should make a X leg style frame and put the barrel on its side in the top part of the X. I’m also thinking that if I make the X large enough I can place some bendable sheet material on top of the barrel and X for rain catch. With the barrel on its side I can easily add a facet tap at the bottom. I can use the larger hole on top for filing or cut a hole on top, which is where the rain would come in anyway. Each barrel done this way will collect about 10 to 12 gallons in a 1 inch rain.



Here is an idea I have for an elevated hot box. Next year I may have this ready to go before early spring. The idea is that you can start plants earlier as if you are planting from seed one growing zone to the south. Then transplant young plants. This only works for certain plants that can take being transplanted. But it can save a lot of money. I found the trays on the internet for 82 cents per tray. Each tray has 6×9 holes. I could start about 500 to 1000 plants in this one hot box.


This next set is August 3rd photos. I installed some steel post around the corn box so that I may if needed wrap it in chicken wire to protect it from coon invasion. I think I transplanted some okra. The okra pulled up so that it was basically plant and main root with almost no dirt. I transplanted two together this way into square foot holes. Later photos show that they did survive the transplanting. Okra is a plant that is about as hardy as a weed. Carrots didn’t seem to come up but later I seem to see some carrot like plants in that mound. I’m waiting to see if something comes of the carrot seed I planted. I actually think the carrot soil might be better off a bit more sandy.

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Zai Square Foot Gardening 3


These first images were taken somewhere around 6/10/13 by Gary’s wife Rachel Tuck. Also got a few of our beloved guard dog Shasta.

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Here we have 3 volunteer tomatoes and a volunteer squash. These had sprouted up from the compost pile where scraps had been tossed.

The rest of the photos in this article where taken on 6/20 6/21.

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This next one is the corn/bean box. I first planted 3 types of corn and green beans. I think I planted too shallow. Much of it didn’t come up. This time in I planted more corn deeper about 1″ and a different kind of bean, purple lima maybe. I did this to fill in the dead space.

I have a feeling I was planting everything too shallow. First, this soil mix is loose so plants will find their way up. 2nd, its dry because its loose if not watered daily. So the first 1/2″ really dry’s out badly. Especially in the mounds.

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Next I show digging and mixing. I dug two 1’x1′ hole and one 2’x3′ hole. This is the first time I dug a 2’x3′ hole. This is more efficient overall. Also I want to reserve the 1’x1′ holes for plants that require 1 for 1f2 or more than 1f2. If plants can be planted more than one per square foot then 2×2 or 2×3 or 3×3 holes might be a better way to go. In the 2×3 hole I planted sugar beats and reddish lima beans. The digging was tougher this time to go deeper. That clay layer at about 6″ deep had really hardened up.

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Next I show the fish I caught while gardening. It reached a point where I couldn’t keep a worm on a hook, so I stopped for 30 minutes and caught most of those. One is a 1lb bass of some type. One small one was a crappie I think. One larger one was a sun perch. The rest were bream. I really need to get a worm bed started. I need to use about 5″ of my soil mix covered by cardboard, wood, insulation and such. Though I’m finding worms in the yard waste compost but not so much in the manure. I find lots of grubs in either, but more grubs in the manure. I have not had much luck catching anything on a grub yet the grubs seem to be eaten off the hooks.

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These next photos are of fishing bank locations where I trimmed the weeds down low. I trimmed paths to the bank fishing spots. The one with the chair and bucket is where I caught the fish this day.

A couple of wide view shots of the garden.

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Some shots of herbs that were planted. The herbs do not seem to be
thriving yet.

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Next I show the irrigation system I have begun. I bought one 100 gallon stock tank used $50. One 30 gallon stock tub $34. Three 50 gal white rain barrels $15 ea. We can remove a plug from the stock tank and gravity flow to the plants. We can for now siphon from the 50 gal drums and dip from the 30 gallon tub.

The above image is a 1″ clear water pump, 4 cycle, 1.5 hp, 1850 gph $155. I also picked up 100′ of black plastic pipe $30, other fittings $15, and quick connects for both sides $17. So far we have around $300 into the irrigation system.

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Marigolds

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I planted 4 types of pepper plants in 4 square feet.

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In these photos I planted carrots again, the ones I planted last time didn’t even come up. I figure they were too shallow and too dry. I planted sugar beats, beans, onions, sun flowers and flowers. Flowers are for attracting pollinators.

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Sunflowers, some were planted in the top of the compost pile just to see how they might do and they all came up well. I may transplant them next time I’m in.

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Here I transplanted squash and cucumbers. A few minutes after the transplant they laid over completely. About an hour later they where standing back up and looking well.

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Tomatoes doing well.

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All vine seeds came up, about 99% germination on those. I am very happy with the vine plants. I may need to do thinning next time I’m in.

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Misc, okra, radishes, spinach, path to/from garden.

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Zai Square Foot Gardening 2


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I had 7 days off on this time in and really got some work done in the garden. I also had some help from Gary’s grandsons. I bribed them with ice cold water, cokes and Gatorade.
If you recall in the previous article I had dumped 7 yards of manure and compost on Gary’s drive which he was not to pleased about. So I rented this tool called a Dingo (Toro brand). It comes with many attachments, each one cost extra to rent aside from the one you first attach to it. Each additional attachment is around $25 for half day. The Dingo itself is $90 for half day(4 hours) and I had to rent the trailer for $27 for 4 hours also. So my total was $140 for 4 hours but in my case I picked it up at closing around 5pm so I had it overnight. If your hour meter goes over 4 hours then you pay 1/6th rental price for each hour or about $15 per hour extra. If you rent it for a day it can be in your possession for 24 hours but its for 8 hours of operation. If you rent it for the weekend you can have it in possession for 48 hours but still only use for 8 hours if you pay for one day. If you need to use it for 16 hours on the weekend then you pay for 2 days.

For controls it has a choke, start stop key switch, throttle, bucket raise, lower, tilt down, tilt up stick/knob. It has an interesting control for going forward back and left right. If you push forward you go forward, pull backward and you go backward. If you twist right you turn right. If you twist left you go left. You can combine forward twist and backward twist at the same time. They said not to spin it on a dime but to move forward and turn or backward turning at the same time. Otherwise you might throw a track.

This one was at the point of needing an overhaul. It used 1+ quarts of oil in 2.7 hours of operation. It also used 3/4 tank and Im not exactly sure how much that was. I was told it had a 10 gal tank and again by someone else a 5 gal tank. I put 3.6 gal’s in it when I got it to top it off. Also it didn’t have to be return full of fuel. If you returned it with less than 1/4 tank but with a little fuel that was acceptable. Its supposed to weight 2000 lbs. Also I figure it took us around 20+ trips to move 7 yards of material. It was about 7 or 8 minute round trip to the garden and back. Also at the garden the county road drops off about 3 feet and slopes downward to the garden level. I didn’t want to go down that with a load in the bucket but I could go up it with no load in the bucked just fine. I had to be perfectly upslope though and not at any angle when climbing up and onto the country road. It did slip sometimes and I noted that it helped to lower the bucket almost all the way to help with it tipping back down and onto the roadway at the end of the 3′ climb.

Other attachments you can get are, post hole diggers, blades, smaller buckets, very small backhoe, breaker, fork lift, ditch digger etc.

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Next we have shots of the garden. This time in I discovered a few things. The weeds and grass wash growing 5 times faster than anything I planted. The mulch cloth I had laid out was a fiberglass type and it let enough light through that the weeds and grass pushed it up. Also I had a 3’x3’x6″ mound of dirt where I had planted 2 types of tomato seed. I had covered up an ant mound with the mulch cloth so the ants decided to get even with me. They constructed in the middle of this 3’x3′ mound a mound of their own. Their mound was about 3′ in dia. and 3″ tall. It killed most of the seedling tomatoes. I think I had 6 that came up good. 4 of one kind and 2 of another. Which I transplanted in 2’x4′ areas in a row.

I did some weeding, and we dug holes, I think I dug 14 1×1 holes, mixed soil and filled the 4’x4′ planter box with soil as well as the 14 holes. I also had enough mix to make a 3’x3’x8″ deep mound for planting carrots in. And a small 2’x2’x6″ mound for planting some more radishes. In the 4×4 planter I planted 3 types of corn and green beans next to each corn stalk. I planted more Spinach in 2 more square feet, more onions, and radishes. Planted a square foot of Bell Pepper and Sweet Banana Pepper. Planted Okra, squash, cucumber, water Melon, cantaloupe, bird house gourds and ladle gourds.

I planted 4 kinds of marigolds from live plants. I planted lavender in 2 places from live plants. I also planted marigold seed for several types around the garden. I planted more sunflower seed in and around herb locations and on the compost and manure pile. I threw out some left over onion seed on the compost and manure piles.

Lastly there was a plum tree in the garden that had lost its mate. I planted a new black plum ($35 from a nursery) in the same hole where its made was pulled up from. I made the hole bigger adding compost and manure in the bottom, then on top around the tree. I then mulched on top around the tree. I also piled manure and compost around the already established tree and mulched around it too.

I bought loads of mulch from Smiley Vincent at London AR, 30 miles away. He charged me $5 per pickup bed load. I think I got 2 loads from him this time in. One I had used 2/3ds of for a walking path at my camper. So I ended up putting 1 and 1/3 loads on the garden. That mostly covered the 400ft2 of mulch cloth I had laid down. We used some of it around the plum trees too. I bought 8 bags of cypress mulch($2.50 per bag) from Atwoods and used it to make a trail into the garden from about 12 feet outside the garden gate. This trail was where it was beginning to get a bit muddy. I also mulched up to the base of the tomatoes though I didn’t get picture of that.

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When I came in the grass and weeds was about 5 feet tall around my camper lol. So I bought some gas for the mower trimmer and got after it. Took me about 5 hours but I knocked all the grass weeds down in and around my camper and around the drive and walking paths. Had to replace the plastic cutting strings a few times. This thing works like a weed eater but it has wheels. I love it. The area round Gary’s house is pretty rough and a lawn mower is just about useless. I had already places some stepping stones from the drive to my camper because when its raining hard there is a 1″ to 2″ stream between the drive and my camper door. So I bought some mulch cloth($15 for 3’x100′) this time a black plastic type. I move the stones and laid it down from under camper steps to drive. I then poured 10 bags of pea gravel($40) out and placed the stepping blocks again. I also rolled out a path from my camper to Gary’s camper about 60′ maybe. I then wheel barreled mulch and spread it out over that cloth just enough so that we couldn’t see the cloth underneath it. It worked well and I think will make a nice path. I usually walk through there to talk to Gary or to hook up the garden hose so that I can have water at the camper. This was an easy and cheap way to make grass and weed free paths around your place/homestead/compound/camp.

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As a bonus while gardening we did some fishing at the pond by throwing out a bobber hook and worm. We found some nice fat juicy earth worms in the compost pile. The first day we only caught a small brim and small crappie. I showed Gary’s grandson how to clean and cook those. The 2nd day we caught a nice 3lb catfish. Gary’s grandson left it on the bank and a coon got it. Which pissed me off. The next day I caught another 3 lb catfish and 3 brim. I show in the photos below the fish before and after cleaning. I also show how I cut the catfish into steaks. Game generally dress out to be 1/2 live weight. So I’m guessing we had 1.5 lbs of catfish meat after cleaning I kept 1/2 lb and gave the other 1 lb to the owners of the pond.

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I took these photos of this Toyota Land Cruiser I’d like to buy but won’t. It was in the town I live at. It was used in Africa on a guerrilla preserve. I don’t know how many miles it has on it. They want $10,500 for it, it has driver controls on right side instead of left. It is 1981 model. Would make a nice gardening tool.

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Zai Square Foot Gardening 1


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This years gardening begins with this old Datson bed trailer I bought for $150. I have hauled 2 loads of rabbit manure 150 miles with it and 2 loads of yard waste compost 15 miles with it. It holds about a yard and I think the loads weighed over 1/2 ton. The rabbit manure cost $25 a pickup bed load or per yard. I had to do half the shoveling work in loading it. The compost cost $20 per pickup bed load. The guy with the compost loaded it with his loader. I next hope to use it to get some wood chips for mulch.

In this next group of photos I show a 5 gallon bucket/pond water/soaker hose experiment. It had a pretty good flow rate at first but gradually slowed to no or little flow. I think the pond water is not pure enough and stops it up. I may try to poke small holes in it where it lays in squares to improve water flow and see if we can make this work. We are attempting gravity flow with this.

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Next I test a $20 fountain pump I got from the hardware store. It said it will pump up to 120 gallons per minute(gpm). But that depends on how high it is above the source. We needed to go as high as possible. If you get above 4 feet it stops pumping all together. So I pumped water from the pond about 3.8 feet high into a 5 gallon bucket. It took 30 minutes. Not good. I think I will get the $200 pump that will supply two sprinklers instead to use for our purposes. This $20 pump would be good for aquaponics or hydroponics.

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Here I show 3 yards of rabbit manure Me and the rabbitry owner loaded in about 2 hours of shoveling. I had already got 2 yards of manure prior to this trip with the Datson bed trailer. So I acquired 5 yards this year, and his rabbits produce that every 6 months. I paid $75 for the 3 yards of rabbit manure that day. I also spent about $130 in fuel to go get the rabbit manure.


Zai is a form of gardening where holes are dug in a grid pattern and filled with manure then planted. This started in Africa for turning sand into soil and desert into plant life. I have chose to use this method because of time constraints. So I use a trenching spade I have to cut a 1’x1′ square in the grass. Then remove the surface grass and roots. I then dig and load 6″ to 8″ of top soil into a wheel barrel. I shovel in 3 shovels of rabbit manure and 3 shovels of compost then mix. I put 1/3 of that back in the hole and dump the other 2/3s at the end of the row for garden box fill.

Now we have pond photos. This is about a 1 acre pond. The water level drops quit a bit
in summer. We intend to water the garden from it, which is aquaculture I guess. We want to figure out a way to pump water up to 50 gallon or 200 gallon tanks. We will then gravity flow water from those. We may also try to catch rain water into those same tanks. In a couple of those photos I took pictures of dam erosion. Beavers were stopping up the overflows so that water flowed over the entire dam and almost ruined the pond. Gary the owner did some beaver hunting to fix the problem.

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Here is where we dumped the 3 yards of manure and 4.5 yards of compost. It had been raining a lot and the ground was very slick. I couldn’t get the trailer back far enough and we ended up dumping part of the load on the circle drive. Gary was not happy about the pile of rabbit manure in his drive. I told him we would all laugh about it later.

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Below shows the compost facility at London AR, Smiley Vincent is the compost guy. The compost I was getting was 2 years old and he had once every month or so turned the pile with his loader. I loaded 4.5 yards that day and I don’t know exactly how heavy it was. This was a 5 ton dump trailer that I had borrowed. It hauls about 10 yards. There were also piles of wood chip compost at this facility. I may get some of that for mulch later on. He charged me $60 for that 4.5 yards of compost that day.

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Next we have the rabbitry in Oklahoma where I bought the rabbit manure. The owner of this made the barn from cedars that he cut down on site. He has about 50 cages and about 50 rabbits. When they have bunnies he has up to 200 rabbits.

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Finally we have the start on the garden. I laid down 4′ mulch cloth in 20 and 30 foot rows 4 feet apart. I pinned them down with the U shaped pins you can buy. The plan is to cut 1’x1′ holes in the cloth then dig a zai hole. I will refill with soil mix then plant. I space the holes 2″ apart and have room in the 4′ wide cloth to do 3 rows of holes. This is for plants that require one square foot. For plants that require more than one square foot of space I will simply space the 1′ holes out further. For example plants that require 2’x2′ will have holes spaced 1’2″ apart. Plants that require 3×3 will be spaced 2’2″ apart. In this way the plant’s runners will lay on the mulch cloth. I will also only have to work on e 1’x1′ area of soil for that plant, not 9 square feet.

A 4×50′ piece of mulch cloth would hold 128 squares. I used a square foot garden stepping tile I bought as a cutting guide. A razor knife blade works great for cutting out the squares. The left over squares can still be used with gravel or mulch on top to keep down grass.

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Another thing I did for herb production and deer deterrent was to dig 30 5×5 holes in a circular pattern around the perimeter of the garden about 2′ out from fence and vegetation.
I then planted lavender every 16 feet or 4th hole. The holes were 4′ apart. I planted every kind of herb you can buy in the other holes 2 holes each. This included chives, rosemary, sage, ore3gano, tarragon, thyme, etc. We have other deer countermeasures to implement. One is an extra fence 4 feet out from the existing one. Another is stringing up fishing line a few feet out from the 2nd fence. Another is placing objects just inside the fence to eliminate landing pads. Hedge rows of holly bushes outside the fence or in between them might work well also but cost more. I poured human urine on tree trunks around the garden.

I was able to get 9 holes prepared in the mulch cloth row. I started 2 more by removing grass. I planted those 9 holes with spring type plants, some greens, peas, onions, beats, radishes etc. I had 3’x3′ x 6″ deep soil mix left over at the end of one row and planted half in one type of tomatoes by seed and half in a larger type of tomato by seed. I bought and setup a garden box that is 5″ high and about 42×42″ in size which will become the potato box next time I’m in. I will remove grass, loose up the soil to 6 to 8″ deep and then fill with extra soil mix as I make new zai holes next time I’m in.
I also planted 3 1’x1′ herb holes Each one had lavender in the mix. I planted one or two sun flowers in every herb hole.
I also need to plant some Marigolds which I here deter rabbits. So I was able to work and plant 33 square feet those 2 days off.


Fasting for Dieting Right or Wrong (I say its right)


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What happens when you fast? I decided to write this post because I had become irritated about a few things I have heard form individuals or read about fasting recently. Specifically fasting for dieting. I believe there are also good reasons for religious fasting but I won’t go into those in this article.

So what happens? First you body begins to burn glycogen and some muscle. It runs out of glycogen (which had been created from carbs and starches). It then stops burning muscle and begins to burn fats. It ramps up production of HGH (Human Growth Hormone) which saves the muscle from being burned for a period of time. Eventually if you starve long enough(30 days or more and when fat reserves have been depleted) all tissues can become food. The body converts proteins to energy and your muscles will completely consume away. But I don’t believe this will happen until all fat is gone first.

There was a man in England who fasted for 352 days, he dropped from 470lbs to 180lbs in that time. He drank water, took vitamins and some minerals such as potassium and sodium as directed by physicians.  He wend back to eating, lived on and never regained the weight.

You will hear it said that fasting for weight loss is stupid because you will simply regain the weight. You will hear its because you tend to overeat after a fast and because in short fast much of the weight loss is water. You will even see write ups that talk as if you loose water and lots of muscle and won’t mention any fat loss at all. You will hear about how brutal a fast is and how hellish it is. (weak talk) There is much biased talk against the fast in my opinion.

I have not done a lot of fasting but hear me out on this. I have fasted for one day periods a dozen times maybe . For 2 days periods less but sometimes. And twice for 3 days in my life and counting. I hope to do a 5 day fast some day. Or maybe even 7 days. Survivorman Les Stroud sometimes goes 7 days without food on his shows.  I’d like to see if the hunger pains (and so far I haven’t seen much in the way of actual PAIN), do go away. So far my stomach doesn’t actually hurt but just nags at me. I feel a definite hollow feeling but no pain to speak of. Sometimes it growls a bit. Nothing really bad at all though.

Eating is definitely a pleasure. If you doubt then try fasting. Telling yourself “no” the first time or two to food while fasting will be a challenge indeed. Your mind will scream at you for food. It will constantly remind you almost to the point that you can’t concentrate on other things. Its almost like a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum. That is the first few times you fast. I broke a fast once or twice the first few times. I actually thought to myself  “this is stupid”. If you do it enough you see that it is not however.

The mind is a funny thing. It learns after repeatedly being told no to accept no. The more times you repeat this fasting and  the more times your mind has to endure this the less it reminds you during fast that you are not eating and should eat. It finally gives up. And finally I think its on your side. If you see some food or smell some food 30 hours in to a 48 hour fast and you being to think about it your mind will remind you “no no you are fasting”  And then you put your mind on something else and the thought goes away. Maybe this is called conditioning? Training?

So don’t feed me that bull that fasting is a terrible torturous experience that won’t help you loose weight because you will gorge yourself afterwards. I have one word for you (that person) “wuss”. The answer to this is simple. Don’t gorge yourself after a fast. As a matter of fact try low carbs the day before and day after the fast. I suggest taking prescription meds and multivitamins during the fast. Consult your physician however just to clear up any safety considerations before fasting if you have never done it before. I don’t think personally that I’d bother my physician before each and every fast.

I think you may find that its easier to pass up a lot of food items that you never could before after you have practiced fasting. Meaning a little hunger won’t throw you into a feeding frenzy. Also as in most things the taste of things are enhanced after a period of abstinence from food. Things that are more healthy actually taste far better.  Bread without butter taste wonderful. Salad veggies without dressing taste awesome. Triskets without cheese taste great! And less filling. Be prepared to eat these lower carb feast after a fast and even before the fast.

Finally its not the fast that causes you to loose weight and fat but the reduced energy intake. Or actually the reduced average energy intake. You can reduce your energy intake without fasting and loose the same weight. This is why many do not recommend fasting for loosing weight. I somewhat see their point except to say that there is no harm in adding fasting to the diet. I think for the conditioning of the mind it can be very helpful. If you have experienced the worst mental stresses from not eating that you can experience then you won’t eat a whole super large bag of potato chips just because you are little hungry. You will have more sense than that. You will also see where the pleasure in eating is at vs eating for health and energy.

If you ever did have a survival situation at hand then going a few days without eating won’t scare you. Or facing going a few days without food won’t scare you. Having fasted might cause you to have empathy for others that are not as lucky as you are to live in the land of milk and honey where we all have access to many times the energy our bodies actually need.

Take a look at our culture and the meals that are offered to us in restaurants. They don’t offer us reduced price meals if we cut out high starch items such as potatoes. If you don’t want the combo with the potatoes fine but you pay more for the meat. You want a large drink, then fine but you must have a larger order of potatoes to go with it. And your conscience won’t let that food go to waste. Especially when it taste so good.  It should taste great, we are wired so that the energy taste best. I swear sometimes that I am addicted to carbs and starch. McDonald’s gripes me more than anyone that they don’t have something healthier to offer in place of their great french fries that has made them so famous. I have got them to substitute apple slices from a kids meal but its not in their system to do it.

A funny thing is that if you have not already developed diabetes then fasting can help in preventing it. But if you have it fasting might hurt. I need to do more research on how fasting affects people with diabetes. Fasting also helps to prevent heart disease.

My diet? Low car, low starch and low fat with occasional fasting. Find some added way to burn some calories and you can’t loose. Nothing but weight that is.


Food Harvest Preservation


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  • Root Cellar
  • Zeer Pots
  • Pickling and Fermenting (alcohol, salt, acid, lime)
  • Salt and Sugar curing
  • Smoking
  • Canning in Jars
  • Vacuum packing in Mylar and Canning Jars
  • Retort Vacuum packing and Canning
  • Refrigeration
  • Freezing
  • Drying or Dehydration (Jerky, Pemmican, Biltong etc. as well)
  • O2 absorption and Desiccants(moisture absorption)
  • Freeze Drying

Root Cellars

I have heard of several methods for making ground temperature storage. Depending on where you live this ground temperature may vary from 70F degrees on the gulf of Mexico to 58F degrees in Arkansas where I live to 50F degrees in southern Canada. That’s quit a difference.  None the less using the ground for its year round constant temperature is a great thing to do.  Humidity plays some role as well.  Some sections of underground storage you may want to be more humid or other sections dryer yet. Containers may affect humidity as well. For example you could remove oxygen and humidity and seal the container then store in a humid, or not, underground location.

A root cellar may be a simple as a barrel or trash can that has been buried where any exposed parts such as a lid are well insulated. This might be buried horizontally in a mound or hill, vertically in flat area or at some angle in between on a slope. Other types of cellars might be a house basement, might be a storm cellar and may even be a bermed out building with earthen and insulated roof. One interesting potato cellar I saw while traveling in the Utah, Idaho, Washington and Oregon area was an A-Frame structure with roofs sloped at about 45degrees and earthen cover. All of these methods use some combination of earth(thermal mass), underground and insulation to keep the inside temperature near ground temperature year round.

Another method similar in root cellar concept is to store food items in water either stream, pond or lake. If pond or lake then deep enough to get down to the cold water layer. Could a root cellar be cooled artificially? Sure it could be cooled with typical A/C Unit. If so insulation may be required between inside space and the ground. Hey we could even make a highly efficient walk in freezer this way? Sure. Commercial freezers are above ground and are insulated to about R60 to R80 standards. As an example consider the typical house 2×4 walls at R11. Meaning you would need a wall about 7 times that thickness for your freezer. Or around 28″ thick, but that’s using fiberglass batt insulation. With styrofoam at 5R per inch we would only need 16″. Or with papercrete at 3R per inch we would need 25 inches or so. The cheapest insulation here would be by far papercrete. Straw and sawdust could also be used as insulation. Though both would have to be carefully protected from moisture. I would suggest those two used as moveable insulation kept in some kind of sealed containment. As in most insulating efforts shiny polished metallic surfaces are good for added heat reflection if possible.

By the way eggs may be pickled and raw eggs may be stored in a water and mineral oil or water and “water glass”  (sodium silicate) solutions for up to 6 months or longer in a cellar. They say if the big end is beginning to float the egg is near bad. And you may add ventilation for use in winter to achieve below ground temperatures in the root cellar to increase storage time.  Carrots and other roots may be kept as fresh as when harvested by keeping them in containers of damp sand. Leave the tops sticking up so you can pull them from the sand. Granddad always said to leave the dirt on the potatoes because if washed they would rot. Maybe the dirt functioned same as sand for carrots aye?

Zeer pots

Zeer pots are most likely only useful in arid climates. This method uses passive evaporation  cooling. Use two pots of different sizes, one that fits entirely inside the other. A layer of wet sand is placed inside the larger pot and separates the two. If the sand dries it is to be dampened again. It appears that one may extend the shelf life span from 2 days to about 20 days or 10 times using this method.

Pickling and Fermenting


Pickling is a procedure where food is preserved chemically by alcohol, salinity, alkalinity or acidity.  Fermenting is usually an initial procedure before chemical pickling where bacterial action works on the food item until a given alcohol content or acidity or alkalinity is reached.  This is a matter of creating an life barrier for bad bacteria which would otherwise feed on the food item. Salt and vinegar (high acid) is usually used along with other possible spices which stunt bacterial growth. Lemon juice or vinegar are usually added make sure the PH is low enough to keep the food safe.

Acid – Alkali: PH of 7 is neutral. Below 7 is acid and above 7 is alkali. In acid pickling PH needs to be below 4.5. There is a such a thing as pickling with lime and PH here needs to be above 8 or 9. Most microbes survive at PH 3 to  near 7.

Alcohol: I have not heard of anyone eating anything pickled with alcohol except uh alcohol(drinking). And we might call whiskey “pickled water”. I have made home made wine. I can tell you that alcohol content of 12 to 15% and kills the yeast which is used to ferment the products. Beer yeast are killed at lower %ages. 20% alcohol and higher is about right for killing any microbes.  Port wine is kept in open vats and is fortified with brandy to around 20%. Therefore Port wine is indeed pickled wine. Brandy is a product that is distilled from wine so that its alcohol content is higher than that of wine, say around 40 to 50%. Whiskey and Rums and Vodka’s are around 40 to 50% and could be used for pickling purposes. As a last note, a food item pickled with alcohol might be cooked to remove the alcohol though I’m not sure how good it may taste.

Salt: Salt creates an environment where there is more salt outside a bacterial cell wall than inside the cell. This kills the cell because it looses too much water. Brine water is >5% salt and will kill most life. Though its tough to say just how salty a liquid or food item must be to kill all bacteria that might live in it. After all there is life growing even in the saltiest seas. Great Salt Lake Utah Ecology(food web) As you can see by this though the number and kind of life is greatly reduced by salinity, life is not totally eliminated. For comparison consider the Ocean average salinity of 3.5% to Great salt lake Utah of 5%-27% depending on the season to the Dead sea at 33.7%


Just about anything we can think of can be pickled. Meats may be pickled and in fact salt and sugar curing is a form of pickling. But plant matter is fermented and not meats. Fermentation at different temperatures give different results. Vegetables and Fruits both are pickled. Once pickled a food may be left at room temperature, though I usually keep them in the frig after opening. Unlike canning pickled items are not completely sterilized, though they may be canned and sterilized as well. I’d have a difficult time with meat that was pickled but not canned properly. Though I do eat beef Jerkey and it is not canned, only pickled and dried.

An interesting last note is that your leather is pickled. The act of tanning is where tannin is used to pickle skin based on high acid.

Salt and Sugar curing

From what I understand meat is buried all the way around in salt for salt curing, and in sugar curing salt is also used but not as heavily. This salt pack or salt sugar pack dries the meat out so that there is little moisture (a key ingredient for life) and also kills bacteria. I know little about this method though I think the FoxFire series books talk about how old timers did this. But I do know that salt needs to be course not fine like table salt or the end result is very salty. The salt is for drawing away moisture. Also the black peppering was for keeping fly’s away. Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite’s are used in curing. Sea salts and natural salts contain amounts of each. This is responsible for the pinkish color in some cured meats.

Smoking


Smoking not only flavors meat’s it dries them out. Smoking is antibacterial but only protects the surface of the meat. Smoking should be used in combination with other methods of preservation. Liquid smoke while adding flavor does nothing for preservation. Smoking and drying or dehydrating in my opinion might go well together.

Canning in Jars

  • Steam Canning
  • Boiled Water Bath Canning
  • Pressure Canning

USDA Canning Guide PDF

The food industry can’s in “cans”, bags, bottles and jars. But we at home can in glass jars mostly (I talk about retort bags below). Equipment for this is a large pot with sealing lid called a caner. Note that some pressure pots you may see are only pressure cookers and not caners. A caner such as a “Presto” will come with a pressure gauge. In general 5, 10 and 15 psi are pressures needed. 20 is too high and will cause pressure to be released via a safety valve or else the pot might explode. The higher the pressure the higher the temperature that can be achieved when canning. PSI means pounds of pressure per square inch above atmospheric pressure. So 15 psi is really 30psi roughly, or double atmospheric pressure. The food boils in the jars within the caner at temperature above 212 degrees. At 15psi it will boil at 240 degrees or higher and kill all life period, not question about it. Meats are canned at 15psi (though I hear altitude alters this pressure) If meats are canned at lower pressures then lower temps will kill bacteria but not spores which are like bacteria seeds. Later if the meat is opened these seeds can cause the bacteria to grow quickly again and become very deadly fast. Lids for jars are made such that they sink in after cooled to show that a slight vacuum seal has been made and the food is indeed sealed and protected. If you set hot jars out and as they begin to cool you would hear popping sounds as the lids sink in. As the contents cool they also shrink and reduce in volume slightly causing a slight vacuum. Canned items can literally be good for decades if kept in cool dark locations. Though as they age they do loose nutritional value over time.  I would like to suggest the canning dates on store bought cans are set for this maximum nutritional drop off, not for spoilage. Though eat out dated canned items at your own risk, not because I told you it was OK.

Note on canning of fish or anything with small sharp bones. Pressure canning will soften bones and scales for that matter to the point where they may be safely chewed or eaten. Personally I wouldn’t want to can the scales however I have seen sardines canned with scales on them. One thing a person might do is first pressure cook the fish and then remove larger bones and scales. Can the remainder(mostly meat). I have read that one may cook up sausage patties the size of a jar, then fill the jar with patties finally fill the jar with melted lard which will solidify over the sausage. The lard actually protects the contents and If you throw on a lid it will vacuum seal as it cools. However it would be safest to go ahead and cook the sausage in a caner.  Other things to know is that wax poured on top is sometimes used to seal in some items such as jams and jelly’s. This is possibly as a secondary precaution in the case a jar seal is not made tight.  Finally, not all canned items have to be pressure canned. There is also hot water bath canning. And there is simply pouring something boiling hot (212F) into a jar and throwing a lid on it. This is how my uncle cans his dill pickles.


Steam canning and boiled water bath canning are virtually the same. Though I hear steam canning is not as safe. Why someone would want to steam can vs boiled water bath I don’t know. But you may find steam canners on the market. These are pans about 3″ deep with a grate where the jars may be set above the water and steam may flow upward around the jars. A large lid the height of the jars is sit on top. There is no seal and steam must leak around the lid as far as I can tell.

Vacuum packing in Mylar and Canning Jars.

I feel that vacuum packing in Mylar is expensive. Mylar is special kind of plastic that does not breath as other plastics do. Its a bit tougher and not cheap. Mylar bags might be reused however if washed and trimmed.  Though each re-use will reduce the volume of the packaging. Great advantage to vacuum packing this way is that you conserve space in storage.

I suppose “Food Saver” is a well known brand of home vacuum packing machines. Food Saver also sells an attachment so that a person may vacuum pack in a regular canning jar. I think this is a super idea. Jars may be re-used with ease. And its a good thing to do with dry goods and items you want to put under refrigeration for shorter term storage. Vacuum packing anything wet will help it to last longer simply by removing the oxygen. If it were something dry I think I’d also add a small bag of something that absorbs moisture or robs oxygen in the jar.

Retort Vacuum packing and canning

List of chamber sealers for sale. Note these chamber sealers are not cheap $600 to $2000. List of Retort pouches from the same site. Note these bags cost around $250 for 1000 depending on the volume.

A retort bag is a bag that was invented to contain food for the space program and for the military. Retort bags are now in use in your local grocery store. I have seen spam, tuna, salmon, sardines etc. canned in retort bags. Retort bags are a little more expensive than cans or bottles. Basically a special plastic is bonded to a given thickness of aluminum foil. This makes a tough bag that is puncture and tear resistant and keeps out light. You may buy a special machine for vacuum packing and sealing a retort bag. Then the canning process is identical to pressure canning in jars or cans. Food preserved in retort bags may be stored for decades. Though again may loose nutritional value over time. Retort bags may be washed and re-used. Though like the re-used Mylar bags become smaller in volume on each successive re-use. I think you may even re-use the bags from store bought retort bagged items.

Refrigeration

Keeping food items as far below ground temperature as you can and yet just above freezing will preserve them for weeks otherwise they would only last for only hours to days at atmospheric or room temps down to ground temps. Air and light here play the most important roles. Air is most important. Depriving any refrigerated item of oxygen is key. Sealed containers help with this greatly by reducing air flow and spread of microbes from one item to another, though vacuum packing would be better yet. Dryer items last longer than wetter items. Pickled items last longer than unpreserved items.

Freezing

Freezing will preserve most anything but not indefinitely. Freezing only slows down greatly bacterial growth. Freezing does not kill bacteria. Colder is better in freezing. Quick freezing and quick deep freezing is better than slow freezing. If frozen very quickly ice crystals will not form. This is what you may have seen in the grocery store as IQF or Individually Quick Frozen products. I used to work at a Tyson’s chicken processing plant. The meat industry first began using freezers that were made for quick freezing vegetables and fruits. These freezers have conveyers that circle through the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes at -60F.  The only thing I’ve seen wrong with IQF products is that it seemed to me that they were frost bitten quickly at home in the freezer. I think frost bite in food is something like a freeze drying effect on its surface. This toughens and disturbs the flavor of the food item as well as the cooking properties. Meat packaged in butchers wax paper seems to do well and not become freezer burnt quickly.

Blanching is a technique where you partially boil an item for a few seconds, then freeze. I think this works by coating the outside of the food item with a consistent layer of ice. Meaning no part of the food item is exposed directly to air. If food items are frozen in water then they are completely sealed off from air which prevents freezer burn and freezer taste from getting into the food item. Fish is normally frozen in water. Frozen items may last for a year or more.

Drying or Dehydration

Food dehydrators are commonly sold but are easy to make. Even an aluminum foil lined box with hot light bulbs can work. I’m sure you may see videos on Youtube for home made food dehydrators. Beef Jerky, Pemmican and Biltong are all basically the same thing’s, dried meats. They differ in cut’s and spices and processing procedures. Beef Jerky is well known here in the U.S.A and I have commonly seen deer(venison) jerky made by individuals. In stores beef is the main meat used however you might find chicken, turkey and pork as well. Even some smoked dried fish such as salmon. I would suggest that dried meats are also somewhat pickled but not usually fermented. However there is this notion of aged beef and venison. Aging is in essence slow fermentation of meat at very controlled cold temps and given moisture presence. Meats are usually dried from the raw state. However diced meats might be dried from a cooked state for addition into soup mixes.

Beef Jerky usually is somewhat sweet, whereas Biltong (African Jerky) is not. Pemmican is basically what was a nutrition bar for mountain men in the USA during the western migration period. Pemmican is pureed fruit, finely minced meat (possibly dried and ground into almost a powdery state) and solid animal fat such as lard (not liquid oils) combined and cooked into a bar form. You may find recipe’s with a quick web search for Jerky, Biltong or Pemmican.

Vegetables and Fruits are commonly dried in ovens, dehydrators and even by sun drying. Sun drying would be more effective in cold and dry climates. Dried veggies make great soup mix material. Dried fruits mixed with nuts make energetic snacks.

Once dried, food items again must be protected from the usual heat, air, light, water to be long lasting. I wouldn’t hesitate to vacuum pack and/or refrigerate or freeze dry items to even further increase their lifespan. Remember refrigeration can be as simple as storing in a root cellar. During the drying process anything that you may do to remove humidity will help as well. Refrigeration and Freezing usually remove humidity. A room dehumidifier might be a good idea as well. For example you put the room dehumidifier and the dehydrator in an enclosed space together. If you are under central heat and air or any a/c, then dehumidification is part of that cooling process as well.

O2 absorbers and Desiccants

Rock salt and even powdered milk(I heard) (in coffee filters tied up) can be used as a moisture absorber (desiccant). Both after use might have the moisture removed by cooking in oven. Rice and crackers has been used to absorb moisture from salt shakers. They might work for stored food items as well, again wrapped up in a coffee filter. Desiccants should go on bottom, and O2 absorbers on top. O2 absorbers can create a slight vacuum I hear on the container. O2 absorbers are usually made from iron powder and small amount of water. The type of container and sealing are very important in O2 absorption as any leak will ruin the process and effect.  O2 absorption is preferred in some cases to vacuum packing because it does not crush or compress the food product.

Freeze Drying

It appears that to freeze dry on the commercial scale one might need to buy a large freeze drier which will cost $4000 plus and require 3 phase electrical connection and probably 240 volts.  This might be doable for a group of families, but is most likely not practical for common home freeze drying for most people. This is a 2 step process. First the product must be quickly frozen to somewhere between -60 and -120. This prevents ice crystals from forming. Next a vacuum is drawn and the product is slowly warmed back up. As it is warmed moisture under a vacuum will vaporize from frozen to gas immediately skipping the liquid state. This is what happens to liquid water in space, instead of forming a ball it quickly vaporizes or boils away. One note about freeze drying is that the product is not deformed or compressed or crushed because the vacuum is put on it in a frozen state.

I have heard of a less expensive method of freeze drying which will work for certain foods or foods prepared a given way. I picked this up from the off-grid.net forum.  In this method you use a typical deep freeze to freeze items in canning jars. Next you take them out of the freezer and screw on canning lids which have an L shaped fitting to a 1/4″ vacuum hose. This line goes to a group of connections where other jars are connected into. A 6 millibar vacuum is kept on all the jars until complete. A vacuum can be purchased for $350 on Ebay which will do the job such as, “Robinair 15600 6 CFM 2 Stage Vacuum Pump”  This is a 2 stage, 120v, 1/2 horse vacuum weighting 27lbs. Once put on vacuum the food item is simply left to warm back up to room temps. When it  is warm it is usually  done. Some foods (those that are very wet) may require a 2nd treatment.

One way to go might be in using a Savant Vapor Trap which cools down to -50c or even -105c These cost between $600 and $2500 at the time of this writing. They have 120 and 240v models. Different models probably have different volumes which they handle.

Remember

Light,moisture , temperature and oxygen are key components in food preservation. If something is kept in a clear or translucent container it must be kept in dark or near dark storage. When it comes to temperature colder is usually better, but freezing some things can cause problems in taste or break containers. Remember when liquids freeze they expand. Expanding ice can crack steel even.

Final not of caution.

Some preservation methods and chemicals can render food toxic if too much is eaten over time. Such as salt and high blood pressure as well as other illnesses that need low salt diets. It would be wise to research illnesses related to preservatives.